By: Kate Cottrell
As the body’s largest internal organ, the liver is involved in every critical process of the body. Yet many of us take the liver and its role in our health for granted. When we think of liver disease, excessive alcohol consumption may be the first cause that comes to mind. In fact, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is the most common form of liver disease, affecting up to 25% of Canadians, 1 with men at greater risk than women.2
NAFLD is caused by accumulation of fat in the liver – 80% of those who develop NAFLD are overweight, and may drink little or no alcohol. The effects of NAFLD on the liver resemble those seen in alcoholic liver disease.1 Obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol and/or triglyceride levels, and insulin resistance are common causes; keeping these conditions well-controlled with diet, exercise, and medications can help prevent liver disease from progressing. Avoid consuming alcohol.2
Consult your physician about appropriate lifestyle measures. Individuals who are overweight are generally advised to start with regular aerobic activity and gradually increase intensity. Keep daily calorie consumption to about 25 to 30 kcal/kg of your body weight, and aim to lose about 10% of body weight over 6 months. Losing weight too quickly (using a very low calorie diet or bariatric surgery) can have serious health consequences, including an increased risk of liver damage or liver failure.2
Eat right for health
- Eat a diet rich in vegetables and fruit with high levels of fibre and antioxidants.
- To manage triglycerides or high blood sugar, eat foods with a low glycemic index.
- To manage high (LDL) cholesterol, limit your intake of fats, especially saturated fats.2
To know your liver is to love your liver
It may be easier for you to persist with your diet, lifestyle, and medication regimens and reach your targets if you know a bit about liver disease and what you need to do to manage it. Ask your doctor or pharmacist for educational material on liver disease and its care. 2
1. Canadian Liver Foundation. Liver Disease in Canada: A crisis in the making. An assessment of liver disease in Canada. March 2013. http://www.liver.ca/support-liver-foundation/advocate/Liver_Disease_in_Canada_Report.aspx
2. Grattagliano I et al. Managing nonalcoholic fatty liver disease: Recommendations for family physicians. Can Fam Physician 2007(53) 5:857-63. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1949172/